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A Manhattan federal judge has tossed out a defamation lawsuit against Fox News filed by an ex-Playboy Playmate who had previously claimed to have had a 10-month affair with President Trump when he was a private citizen.
Karen McDougal originally filed the case in response to on-air remarks about potential “extortion” made by FNC host Tucker Carlson.
On December 10, 2018, the prime-time host said on Tucker Carlson Tonight the following in allegedly alluding to (but not naming) McDougal and Stormy Daniels. Carlson said, in part, that “Two women approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money. Now that sounds like a classic case of extortion. Yet for whatever reason, Trump caves to it, and he directs Michael Cohen to pay the ransom. Now, more than two years later, Trump is a felon for doing this. It doesn’t seem to make any sense.”
Apparently, as part of the Michael Cohen investigation into campaign finance law violations, the parent company of the National Enquirer allegedly admitted in 2018 that it paid McDougal $150,000 to bury her story so that it would not impact the 2016 presidential campaign, according to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Prosecutors reached an agreement with the publisher not to pursue charges in the matter.
President Trump has denied the affairs.
Watch the December 2018 Tucker clip in question embedded below:
(Source: Fox News)
Dismissing the case against Fox News, U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, a Trump appointee, determined that the legal action was meritless.
“…Ms. McDougal has not offered a plausible interpretation that the statements Mr. Carlson made, when read in context, are statements of fact. The Court concludes that the statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and, as such, are not actionable as defamation. In addition, as a public figure, Ms. McDougal must raise a plausible inference of actual malice to sustain her defamation claim. She has failed to do so.”
The judge’s entire 19-page opinion is embedded below which you can review and draw your own conclusions:
Under the law as it currently stands, someone who is deemed a celebrity of some kind (i.e., a public figure) generally has to prove actual malice to recover money damages under the precedent-setting 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. To make a long story short, a plaintiff must offer evidence that a news outlet deliberately published false information or with “reckless disregard” of whether it was true or false.
It is possible that McDougal could appeal Judge Vyskocil’s decision, however.
Fox News issued a statement after the ruling:
“Karen McDougal’s lawsuit attempted to silence spirited opinion commentary on matters of public concern. The court today held that the First Amendment plainly prohibits such efforts to stifle free speech. The decision is a victory not just for FOX News Media, but for all defenders of the First Amendment.”
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